The Chronology: Page-31
Friday August 30th - Saturday August 31st 1940

Boulton Paul Defiants of 264 Squadron          An early model Hurricane before squadron letters were allocated


Much improved conditions would prevail throughout the British Isles. Temperatures should be slightly higher than the previous days and conditions are expected to remain fine with cloud periods in all Channel areas.


This day, Germany launched a total of 1,310 sorties against Britain. It appeared that Kesselring was intent on attacking with everything that he had. One direct hit on the power supply line took out the radar stations at Dover, Rye, Pevensey, Foreness, Beachy Head and Whitstable and they were off the air for a critical three hours. Biggin Hill was attacked twice by 109s and Ju88s within a few hours and major damage was done with the result that some 40 people were killed. Kenley, Shoreham, Tangmere and Rochford were also targeted where the story was much the same. Hangars, buildings and the airfields themselves receiving devastating damage.

Many times, fighter sweeps by Bf109s failed to attract Fighter Command into the air, Park was not going to be drawn into unnecessary fighter combat. So Kesselring sent over fast Ju88 bombers and working in conjunction with the Bf109s was adamant that somehow he would get the RAF fighters into the air. At one time, a mass formation of over 200 bombers droned over the Kent coast only to break into separate formations with each one targeting the RAF airfields. Biggin Hill was attacked again, as was Kenley, Gravesend, Hornchurch, Debden, North Weald, in fact every RAF airfield from Duxford to the south coast was attacked in one way or another.

Fighter Command was forced to get some of its fighters into the air. The selective targets were to 'get the bombers'. The skies over the south coast became a pattern of vapour trails as some of the RAF fighters got tangled up with 109s, it was impossible to avoid them. Most of the fighters tried in vain to straffe the bombers, but it all became a melee of all sorts. The casualties started to fall from the sky, Spitfires, Bf 109s, Hurricanes, Heinkels and Dorniers. Many were badly shot up, others just collided into each other.

"I saw his contortions, then I saw him straighten and fly straight into the German aircraft; both crashed and Percy was killed. I was close enough to see his letters, as other pilots must have been and who also confirmed this incident, which in itself caused me to realize my young life and its future, if any, had jumped into another dimension"
Sgt. G. Pallister 249 & 43 Squadrons on P/O P. Burton ramming a German aircraft.
Deliberate, or accidental, the ramming and/or colliding with aircraft was a common occurrence, especially when many of the pilots were adopting the head on attack attitude. Carried out correctly, it was a successful method of attack. Mostly used on attack on bombers, it was also used frequently in fighter combat.
There are several advantages to the frontal attack when in combat, providing that you can get into the right position. You avoid the concentration of fire from a bombers rear gunners and as the twin engined aircraft has no guns firing forward, the pilot and crew are more vulnerable from the front, and perhaps above all it makes it very difficult for the escorting fighters to carry out their protective role. Of course, the disadvantage is that there is so little time. The relative closing speed would be something approaching 600 mph this is almost nearly 300 yards per second. The optimum range of our guns was about 300 yards, so if you could effectively get your sights on the target at 600 yards, you could press the button for one second and this would leave you with one second to break away, many had this tactic down to a fine art, many didn't, but the effect on the enemy formation was devastating.
Flight Lieutenant D.L. Armitage 266 Squadron
Despite the fine weather of the morning period, the only raids were on shipping in the Thames Estuary. These shipping strikes had been left alone for the last couple of weeks and Fighter Command regarded them as once again being lures to attract RAF fighters into the air. Park was in no way going to be tempted, sending up squadrons of fighters would weaken his defences of his airfields that seemed to be the targets of enemy action of the last few days. The first sign of action took place during mid-morning.


1030hrs: First sign of activity occurred when a formation was picked up off the coast near Cap Griz Nez. Three separate groups were detected which turned out to be separate formations of He111s and in all totalled about 120 aircraft. The cloud base was down to about 7,000 feet and the Observer Corps had difficulty in estimating their numbers as the German formation was flying at about 14,000 to 15,000 feet, and reported a small escort of Bf109s. The Luftwaffe were now, for the first time using a smaller number of Bf109s as close escort, and with a larger number flying at about 25,000 feet.

1050hrs: 43 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes), 79 Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes), 85 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes), 111 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes), 222 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) 253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes), 603 Squadron Hornchurch Spitfires), 610 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires) and 616 Squadron Kenley (Spitfires) were released by Fighter Command cope with the incoming formations.  Park dispatched his squadrons in two waves, as the German bombers were coming across the Channel in three separate formations.

43, 79, 253, and 603 Squadrons went in first to intercept the first wave of bombers just prior to them reaching the English coast between Deal and Folkestone. 85 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) met up with the leading Heinkels and decided on a head on attack. This was a manoeuvre that AVM Hugh Dowding did not agree with, stating that it was far too dangerous and that many of the more novice pilots would want to copy their more experienced counterparts with possible fatal results. But nevertheless, squadron commanders generally encouraged it, because performed properly, it allowed the bomber formation to scatter in all directions, while at the same time a squadron following would then attack the bombers while they were pre-occupied with avoiding hitting the first squadron that caused them to scatter in the first place.

South African pilot, Pilot Officer E.J. Morris went into a head on attack with a Heinkel. He knew this form of attack although he himself had never tried it. 79 Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes) engaged a formation of Heinkel 111s and while some peeled of to execute their attack from above, many decided to make a head on attack. Morris was one of them. He pressed the firing button, banked sharply only for the Heinkel to ram the underbelly of his Hurricane. His aircraft was cut to pieces, but Morris, still strapped in his seat managed to pull the ripcord and parachuted to safety. His injuries were just a broken leg...and a bit of confidence. He said afterwards, "I thought they were supposed to break formation if we pressed home a frontal attack". He was told that '...not if the pilot is dead, you are supposed to make allowances for that'. Morris replied, "Then how the hell are you supposed to know if he is dead or not?" The way you did, he was politely told.

S/L Tom Gleave of 253 Squadron was another who saw action this day. At 32 years of age, Gleave wanted to command the squadron, but was told politely that RAF regulations did not permit commanding officers above the age of 26. But somehow, Tom Gleave managed to get part of his way by smooth talking his way into sharing the command with the newly appointed commanding officer. It seemed that this day Tom Gleave was 'Hun Hungry';

Detached from the rest of the squadron, his vee of three aircraft was vectored on to an enemy formation. Ahead of him and about 500 feet above Gleave saw line-astern formations of Bf109s riding above the haze, well spaced out and stretching as far as the eye could see. It was the culmination of all Gleave’s ambitions. Unhesitating, he flew right through the enemy fighters.
He remembered the scene clearly, and described the smell of the cordite, the hiss of the pneumatics, and the way the Hurricane’s nose dipped as the guns recoiled.

He gave the first Bf 109 a four-second burst and saw his bullets hitting the engine. He saw the Perspex of the hood shatter into fragments that sparkled in the sunlight. The Bf109 rolled onto its back, slewed, and then dropped, nose down, to the earth. Another enemy aircraft came into his sights. Gleave turned with him, firing bullets that brought black smoke from the wings before the Bf109 dropped vertically, still smoking. Gleave narrowly missed colliding with his third victim, and then gave him a three-second burst as the Messerschmitt pulled ahead and turned into the gunfire. The cockpit seemed empty; the pilot slumped forward out of sight. The Messerschmitt fell. The German pilots were trying to maintain formation and by now there was so much gunfire curving through the air that Gleave had the impression of flying through a gigantic golden bird-cage. A fourth Messerschmitt passed slightly above Gleave, and he turned and climbed to fire into the underside of its fuselage. But after two or three seconds’ firing Gleave heard the ominous clicking that told him he had used up all his bullets. But already the fourth victim was mortally hit, and rolled on its back before falling away.

In spite of his age and rank, Gleave possessed the one quality that distinguished the ace pilots on both sides. It was something more important than flying skill, more important than keen eyesight, even more important than quick reaction times and the ability to “aim off” for the correct deflection. Such men as Gleave had the nerve to fly on collision courses (that forward-facing guns require) very, very close to the enemy. Gleave was 175 yards from his first victim (very close by 1940 standards) and 120 yards from the second one. But the third and fourth Messerschmitts were hit from only 60 and 75 yards respectively. At such close quarters the eight machine guns did terrible damage.

Len Deighton Fighter Jonathan Cape 1977 p200
Afterwards Tom Gleave learned of the RAF hierarchy "Bullshit" for want of a better word as he calls it. When he made his claim for the four Bf109s, they stated that it was an impossibility to shoot them down in as many minutes. As a compromise, they allowed his claim as four probables.

1115hrs: Observer Corps further reported that 40 plus Heinkel He111s and 30 Do17s escorted by 100 plus Bf109s and Bf110s were approaching the coast. By now, the first wave over bombers had pushed on over Ashford still in combat with the British fighters. With the first wave of He110s and Do17s crossing the Kent coast, what radar was working was picking up sightings that stretched right back to the French coast. Keith Park at Fighter Command Group HQ decides to act, and places nearly sixteen squadrons at readiness with two squadrons from 12 Group sent in to give cover to Biggin Hill and Kenley.

1130hrs: One of the first squadrons to intercept the enemy formation is 79 Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes). Green section and Blue section move in to attack the Heinkel's:

Green section from Biggin Hill attacks an estimated 30 Heinkel He111s, one of which is shot down. The four Hurricanes of Blue section are led by F/O Ted Morris and Blue 2 is Bill Milligan. Instructing Blue 3 and Blue 4 to keep the fighters off, Morris leads Millington down into a vertical dive through another bomber formation to split it up. Millington opens fire as a Heinkel looms up in front of him but at the edge of his vision he sees a collision - Morris has crashed into a Heinkel. There is no time to watch as he hurtles through, narrowly missing a collision himself. As he pulls out of his dive the Australian can see that the Heinkels have split up and over the radio Blue 4 calls that he has seen Morris bale out. To one side, a Heinkel goes down with both engines on fire.
Dennis Newton A Few of the Few Australian War Memorial 1990 p135
1145hrs: The second wave of German bombers and their Bf109 escorts were now entangled with more RAF fighters. 85, 111, 222 and 616 Squadrons, just like the first squadrons to engage the bombers they were to have their hands full. Keith Park now had to act, and dispersed sixteen squadrons. But by the time that they managed to take off and gain height, the German bomber formation was well over Kent and heading towards London. The He111s and the Do17s break into two formations, and once again Park is quick to realize that his Sector Stations are under attack once more. One eyewitness said of this day, that no matter where you looked over Kent, Surrey or South London, you could see nothing but bombers and fighter planes fighting it out. Vapour trails were everywhere and it was believed that Germany had sent over the whole dammed Luftwaffe. S/Ldr Tom Gleave of 253 Squadron achieved the remarkable feat of destroying four Me109s in just a matter of minutes.

1200hrs: With squadrons engaging the first wave of bombers, and also the second wave, reports were still coming in to Fighter Command that more formations were over the Channel and heading for the Kent coast. Park had no option but to put all his squadrons into the air. Two squadrons that had been covering Biggin Hill were moved forward into the attack, and Park called on 12 Group to send squadrons down covering Biggin Hill and Kenley.

1215hrs: Once again, Biggin Hill was hit, the two squadrons from 12 Group fail to sight the Ju88s coming in from the south, but only few of the bombs actually fall on the airfields doing damage to a hangar and putting the telephone system out of action. Many of the bombs fall wide and the town of Biggin Hill suffered as did the village of Keston. Kenley suffered much the same fate with many buildings hit and many stationery wounded aircraft on the ground received further damage. 79 Squadron  Biggin Hill (Hurricanes) along with 74 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) are pulled back to guard the aerodromes of Biggin and Kenley because once again, the 12 Group squadrons had failed to show. Two sections of Hurricanes try to keep the Bf109s occupied, while two sections engage the bombers. One Hurricane is lost as it fails to pull out of a dive on its target and collides with a He111 which goes down in flames. The pilot of the Hurricane was seen to bale out. 79 Squadron, as well as 610 Squadron, both from Biggin Hill between them, claim 10 enemy aircraft shot down. As well as Biggin Hill and Kenley suffering badly in the raid, the airfields of Croydon and Detling were also hit.

1300hrs: It had been one of Fighter Commands busier days, every squadron in 11 Group had at least been called up for one sortie. Again Keith Park was on the phone to 12 Group asking '...where in the hell were your fighters that were supposed to have protected my airfields." The answer was that the 12 Group fighters could not find the enemy, to which Park 'politely' told them that they were not supposed to be going looking for the enemy, they were supposed to be at the South London airfields waiting for the enemy to come to them.

1315hrs: Many of the original He111s, Do17s and Bf109s were heading for home, that is, if they hadn't been shot down, as another wave of bombers crossed the coast between Deal and Dungeness again. This time, their strength was much smaller. Coming in in three waves ten minutes apart, they all veered into different direction once over the Kent coastline heading for their own particular target. These attacked the forward airfields of Hawkinge and Manston. 43 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes) engaged the bombers and many of the British fighter pilots see the He113 fighter for the first time. Although the airfield received minor damage, all the bombers made just the single run before turning back over the Channel. F/L R.C. Reynell of 43 Squadron is caught between five He113 fighters who have the advantage of height. Reynell evades the German fighters with an extraordinary display of combat aerobatics with more manoeuvrable Hurricane, but because the German tactics was to send one He113 into a combat dive after Reynell's Hurricane, the others positioned themselves to block any exit Reynell may have had in mind. This cat and mouse action continued for eight to ten minutes before the enemy had to break off the engagement because of their fuel situation and return for home, and a relieved Reynell flies back to base.

1600hrs: More waves of heavy German bombers came across the Kent countryside and from the direction of the Thames Estuary. 56 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes), 79 Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes), 222 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) 253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes), 501 Squadron Gravesend (Hurricanes) and 603 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) were among the squadrons dispatched to intercept, many of these squadrons had been in combat practically non stop since 1030hrs. Now for the first time, as Keith Park for the second time this day had every one of his squadrons airborne, called in 12 Group and this time requested them to engage in combat and not just protect 11 Group airfields. One of the squadrons to be sent down in the combat area was 242 Squadron Duxford (Hurricanes) led by S/L Douglas Bader who had just brought his squadron down from Coltishall that morning. Bader, had been longing for action for months, but up until now had not seen any, well, with the exception of intercepting a lone aircraft while on patrol, but according to Douglas Bader, "....that is not action, my twelve Hurricanes against fifteen or so of theirs, that's what I call action." So if Bader called fifteen enemy aircraft action, then he was now going to be thrown right into it, because, being vectored close to North Weald there were seventy enemy aircraft to be met. [ Document 40 ].

1800hrs: For the second time that day, Biggin Hill was bombed and almost put out of action  Detling airfield was the first to get hit by at least fifty H.E. bombs. Oil tanks were hit and set ablaze, the main electricity cable was hit and cut the power to all buildings and with hangars and roadways cratered it was anticipated that the airfield would be out of action for at least two days. Nine Ju88 bombers manage to get though the British defences and took everybody by surprise and struck Biggin Hill with a low level bombing attack dropping 1000 lb bombs causing mayhem. The transport yard was destroyed, storerooms, the armoury and both officers and sergeants messes were severely damaged, two hangars were wrecked earlier in the day and now another hanger was almost flattened, and on top of all that telephone and communication lines were severed, gas and water mains were ruptured. Casualties amounted to thirty-nine personnel killed and thirty five injured.

At 4.00 p.m., again without pause, the third and perhaps heaviest group of raids is plotted building up. During the next two hours large and small formations of enemy aircraft flood in over Kent and the Thames Estuary. The Junkers Ju 88s which appear over Biggin Hill at 6.00 p.m. only number nine but the havoc caused by their bombs is far worse than that of any previous attack. The airfield is taken completely by surprise. Six of 79 Squadron's Hurricanes manage to scramble before the bombs start falling but 610 Squadron, already up, is too far away to help defend its own base.

There is wholesale destruction as workshops, cook houses, the sergeants' mess and WAAF quarters are wrecked and 90% of the station's transport is damaged or destroyed.
All electricity, water and gas mains are cut: and two parked aircraft are reduced to scrap. The airmen's shelter is pulverized by a direct hit and all those who had crammed in a few moments earlier are killed. Another bomb hits the airwomen's shelter and the concrete walls cave in, crushing and smothering those inside.
Everyone outside pitches in and digs furiously to free the trapped women. Ambulance and stretcher parties stand by. One-by-one the women are carried out: some are barely recognizable because of dirt and blood on their faces. Others are dazed and bruised but all, except one, are alive. Lena Button from Tasmania is the only casualty. Altogether, 39 personnel have been killed and 26 injured.

Dennis Newton. A Few of the Few Australian War Memorial 1990 p136
It had been a busy day for Fighter Command, over 22 squadrons had been in action for most of the day, many of them doing up to four sorties. But as night fell, there was to be no let up. Göring this time had meant business. It appeared that this was an all out effort to destroy Fighter Command in one way or another.

130 plus Ju88s and He111s of Luftflotte 3 made a night attack on the City of Liverpool, Do17s and He111s made raids on London and Portsmouth, Manchester was bombed as was Worcester and Bristol. In another unexpected raid, the Vauxhall Motor Works at Luton was hit resulting in over fifty people being killed.

It had been one of the worst days for the RAF, 39 aircraft were destroyed, eight of these were Spitfires from 222 Squadron Hornchurch, over 50 RAF personnel had been killed (39 of these at Biggin Hill) with nearly 30 seriously injured. Some 200 civilians had been killed in the air raids and along with the radar stations of Pevensey, Beachy head and Foreness sustaining damage, Biggin Hill was made virtually non-operational, and the control of its sector was transferred over to Hornchurch.

On the German side, a total of 41 fighters and bombers had been destroyed. But they too, during the hours of darkness felt the brunt of an Bomber Command offensive as well. More that 80 Hampdens, Wellingtons and Whitleys attack cities in Holland and Belgium. Berlin is attacked by 149 Squadron Bomber Command. 50 Squadron attacked oil refineries near Rotterdam. Of these, only four RAF bombers are lost.

1115hrs: W of Maidstone. Hurricane L1965. 253 Squadron Kenley
P/O C.D. Francis killed. (Shot down during combat with Bf109 )
1120hrs: Redhill. Hurricane P3921. 253 Squadron Kenley
P/O D.N.O. Jenkins killed. (Baled out when aircraft hit by gunfire from Bf109, but shot at by enemy)
1150hrs: Nr Bognor. Hurricane P3179 43 Squadron Tangmere
Sgt. D. Noble killed. (Shot down by Bf109 in combat over Sussex coast. Crashed near Brighton/Hove)
1151hrs: Stroud (Kent). Hurricane V7369. 151 Squadron Stapleford
S/L E.B. King killed. (Crashed and exploded in flames during routine patrol. No cause known
1202hrs: West Malling. Spitfire X4248. 616 Squadron Kenley
F/O J.S. Bell killed. (Shot down during attack on Bf109. Crashed and aircraft burnt out)
1715hrs: Dungeness. Hurricane P3213. 253 Squadron Kenley
Sgt. J.H. Dickinson killed. (Shot down by Bf109, baled out but was killed)
1735hrs: Woodchurch (Kent). Hurricane V6548. 43 Squadron Tangmere
S/L J.V.C. Badger died of wounds 30.6.1941 (Shot down by Bf109 over Romney Marshes)
1802hrs: Bishopsbourne. Spitfire R6628. 222 Squadron Hornchurch
Sgt. J.I. Johnson killed. (Shot down by Bf109. Crashed and burnt out)



Fair conditions were expected to prevail over most of the country with higher temperatures. Clear and fine in the south with hazy conditions in the Thames Estuary and Channel areas near Dover.


It was now felt that the Luftwaffe really now meant business. The forward airfields of Hawkinge, Lympne and Manston had received considerable damage the day before, but they were regarded as still being operational. The main airfields of Gravesend, Croydon, Kenley, Biggin Hill, Hornchurch and Duxford also had received serious damage. Biggin Hill, who had the day before, made a statement that they were temporarily out of action, but with an all out effort by the ground crews (and some pilots) overnight and in the early hours of the morning, they declared themselves operational.

Movements within Fighter Command were 610 Squadron (Spitfires) who had been operation out of Biggin Hill were transferred north to Acklington where it was hoped they would indulge in a well earned rest. 72 Squadron (Spitfires) under the command of S/Ldr A.R. Collins moved down from Acklington to Biggin Hill.

0755hrs: Radar picked up one plot over the Thames Estuary, another plot was picked up over the Channel and heading towards the Dover and Dungeness area and within a few minutes it was confirmed that three formations were approaching from the Thames Estuary while the fourth was approaching over Dover and many a remark was made, "...they just don't give up do they." and ".......blimey, not again." But Park, realizing that he had dispatched his fighters far too late the previous day, was taking no chances this time.

Two squadrons were "scrambled" and were vectored to the Margate and Thames Estuary area. This first wave of enemy aircraft was identified as Bf109s and flying at some 25,000 feet where their performance was better than that of the Spitfire. Park sent out the order for them to return to their bases as he was not wanting to involve fighter to fighter combat. 253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes) received the message and headed for home. But the other squadron 1st Canadian Squadron RCAF (they had not been allocated a RAF Squadron number at this time) did not receive the message and got caught up with the Bf109s and three of their aircraft were destroyed. F/O G.C. Hyde baled out of his aircraft but sustained severe burns, F/Lt V.B. Corbett suffered the same fate. There is no information on the third Canadian pilot. Realizing that Fighter Command was not to be tempted, the Bf109s decided to attack the barrage balloons around the Dover area.

0815hrs: Three more waves of enemy aircraft had been detected by radar approaching the Thames Estuary again. The Observer Corps reported them to be a formation of 200+ enemy bombers, which consisted of a mixture of He111s and Do17s escorted by 60 Bf110s. Keith Park makes the decision to "scramble" 13 squadrons from 11 Group in the London area, leaving only two or three squadrons to guard the city. But reaching the mouth of the Thames, the German aircraft break and go into several formations, each heading for a separate target. North Weald was hit and sustained considerable damage, Hornchurch also received a few hits, the RAF fighters here doing a swell job at keeping most of the bombers away from the airfield.

0825hrs: A formation of 40 Do17s heads towards Duxford with the escorting Bf110s as protection. 12 Group is taken by surprise and the Group Controller there sends out an urgent appeal to 11 Group for assistance. Park responded immediately and diverted 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) to make an interception. 111 Squadron flew due north-east in an effort to cut off the formation, then turning south met the Dornier Do17s head on. They managed to scatter the formation but could only destroy only one bomber.

With most of the RAF fighters holding the bombers at bay around the London area, and 111 Squadron already dispersing the other formation from attacking Duxford, it left a third formation completely unopposed at attacking Debden airfield which suffered badly where over 100 bombs fell causing serious damage to three barracks, storerooms and pot holing the airfield badly. 18 personnel were injured in this attack as well as a number of aircraft parked on the base.

The returning Dorniers and Heinkels ran into 19 Squadron Fowlmere (Spitfires) where two enemy bombers are shot down at the expense of two of the Spitfires. One pilot, F/O J.B. Coward had his aircraft shot up by an Bf109 and had his leg torn off just below the knee, but he managed to bale out and was safely taken to a base hospital.

0900hrs, The Luftwaffe launch another attack, this time two waves approach from the Thames Estuary again. One Dornier formation diverts to Eastchurch where the airfield receives minor damage, as does Detling airfield which was attacked by Bf110s.

By this time, Fighter Command was feeling the strain of many days of hard combat. Fighters were being lost in greater numbers than they were being replaced, but what was more important was the fact that the pilots were becoming tired. Many were going up on four sorties a day and at the moment with 11 Group under constant attack they were not in a position to be given the rest that was so badly needed. From Group Headquarters, AVM Keith Park issues another order further cementing the order that no fighter aircraft are to be sent to intercept formations where the Observer Corps have recognized the enemy as being only formations of German fighter aircraft.

1215hrs: 100 bombers with a heavy escort was detected coming across the coast at Dungeness. Breaking into two separate formations but both seemed to be taking different routes towards London. Confirmation comes through that one of the formations consists of Dornier Do17s while the other is made up of Heinkel He111 which also splits up into two more formations. In this attack, Biggin Hill is again attacked just after 79 Squadron (Hurricanes) is "scrambled". Hornchurch "scrambles" 603 Squadron (Spitfires) which had just recently come down from Scotland.

One section attacked Croydon and Biggin Hill. At the former airfield twelve bombers came in at 2,000 feet demolishing a hangar, damaging other buildings and causing casualties. At Biggin Hill, the bombing came from high altitude and to the long suffering occupants of the airfield it seemed that they must be the A1 priority target for the whole Luftwaffe. Further extensive damage was done to hangars and buildings, the married quarters and the officers' mess were bombed and the operations block received a direct hit, extinguishing the lights and filling the rooms with acrid fumes, dust and smoke from the fires which broke out. The temporary telephone lines and power cables put in after the raid on the 30th were destroyed.
Wood and Dempster The Narrow Margin Hutchinson 1961 p315
Of the action over Hornchurch, Dennis Newton writes of an action of this combat:
Similarly 603 Squadron is scrambled from Hornchurch. The squadron is still using sections of three planes with Red Section leading and Blue and Green Sections to right and left. The last three machines form a rear-guard section above and behind. Richard Hillary is Blue 2.

By 12.40 p.m. the squadron is at 28,000 feet (8,500 m) and searching. Someone calls 'Tally ho' as 20 German fighters are spotted below. For once the Spitfires have a height advantage but: they have obviously been seen because the Germans form a defensive circle. Hillary picks out one machine and sees his tracer bullets converging on the Messerschmitt's nose but: then he has to pull back on the control column.

When he looks again the German circle has broken up but: he cannot see the plane he had attacked. Seconds later the sky is empty.

Hillary is of two minds. He realizes that to fly about alone in a hostile sky is to ask for trouble but he is still carrying ammunition which might be put to good use. Over Dungeness about 40 Hurricanes are on patrol and he climbs to join them. Suddenly he realizes that there are too many planes . . . Looking closely at the aircraft in front of him he discovers to his horror that there is a swastika on its tail. He is alone with 40 Messerschmitt Bf 109s! Luckily the Germans do not know that he is there and, seizing the chance, he closes in on the last 109 and fires.
The stricken plane flicks over and spins down our of sight. Hillary heads as fast as he can for Hornchurch and supposed safety.

Dennis Newton  A Few of the Few Australian War Memorial 1990 p139
79 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires) is ordered to patrol over Biggin Hill and to expect a raid by Heinkels on the airfield again. This time they cannot get to the bombers because of the strong cover by the fighter escort. Three Bf109s are shot down, during the fierce combat but the bombers get through and again Biggin Hill suffers considerably. The airfield was cratered so badly that squadrons that had previously taken off there had to be diverted to Kenley and Croydon. Now, all the telephone lines at Biggin Hill had been put out of action.

The attack on Hornchurch continued. A squadron managed to take off before the approaching Dorniers dropped their first bombs, but three Spitfires didn't make it:

We were informed that a large enemy formation approaching our airfield, I looked out but could not see them. The Spitfires of 54 Squadron were scrambled and they just managed to get airborne and start to gain height before the first of the bombers became visible. I could see them now, it was like a lot of dots in the sky like a swarm of regimented bee's coming straight for the aerodrome. It was still quiet when three more Spitfires began to gain speed across the airfield, I watch them as slowly and one by one they clear the ground almost at the same time as the Dorniers who were now above us had let their bombs go.

There were terrific explosions and vibrations as the bombs made contact with the ground, and one of the bombs must have fell just in front of the leading Spitfire being piloted by Flight Lieutenant Alan Deere, because a huge explosion seemed to erupt directly below them. They all got caught up in the blast of this bomb, and I saw all of them being blown in different directions. Alan's aircraft had one of its wings blown off and I saw his propeller spinning off in another direction as the Spitfire crashes to the ground. Another of the planes spins around as his wing tip hits the ground and he lands headfirst into the grass on his airscrew, while the other Spitfire had both wings completely sheered off. Luckily all three of the pilots were only slightly injured.

The airfield is full of craters, and the station commander orders that the airfield be repaired at once. Everything is covered in dust and dirt including my aircraft that had been standing stationary, and after inspection found everything to be okay."

F/Lt Richard Hillary 603 Squadron Fighter Command
1300hrs: During the afternoon, waves of Bf110s come over the coast from Cape Griz Nez and attack the radar stations once again. Foreness CHL also came under attack, but although damage was caused, it was not enough to put any of them out of action and by nightfall, all radar stations were working as normal. The Observer Corps report that some 150 plus enemy aircraft and cross the coast between Dover and the Thames Estuary. Fighter Command were to release 85 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes), 253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes),
310 Squadron Duxford (Hurricanes), 501 Squadron Gravesend (Hurricanes) and 601 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes).

Squadron Leader Tom Gleave of 253 Squadron Kenley, who had the previous day shot down four enemy aircraft in as many minutes was now a casualty himself. When the squadron was scrambled, Tom Gleave led what was left of his squadron, just seven serviceable Hurricanes and attacked a formation of Ju88 bombers. He was just about to return to Kenley, when a Bf109 dived down behind him, then pulled up firing at the Hurricane. Gleaves machine was hit underneath the fuselage and in the tail section. Tom Gleave stated later that:

It was all very quiet as I was returning back to base when suddenly the whole instrument panel disappeared with a terrifying crash, I knew at once that I had been hit.
S/L T.P. Gleave 253 Squadron RAF Fighter Command
At the same time, the reserve fuel tank which was between the instrument panel and the engine burst into flames and some twenty-eight gallons of high octane fuel splashed all over Tom Gleaves body. With his clothing alight, and flames licking every part of the cockpit of the Hurricane, he rolled the aircraft over on its back and managed to unbuckle his harness and fall out of the open canopy which luckily was in the locked open position as he had been in the process of preparing to land. With his clothes on fire, he chose not to open his parachute in case the chute caught fire, and fell for at least 2,000 feet before deciding to pull the ripcord. His body had been badly burned, so too his face. His eyelids had practically been melted together and he was falling blind as he heard the closing sound of a Messerschmitt, then the sound of the Merlin engine of a Spitfire followed by the rat-a tat of Browning machine guns, and he knew he was safe as the Bf109 pulled away. He landed in a wood, and with his eyelids now peeled open and his trousers burnt away he saw that his legs had terrible burns with the skin coming away like sheets of wafer thin pieces of paper. His gloves too had been burnt off revealing a pair of skinless hands and blood-stained flesh.

1515hrs: All available aircraft at Biggin Hill and Hornchurch are scrambled as another large formation makes its way in from the Thames Estuary. Hornchurch receives only slight damage and one of the personnel is reported killed. But as it had been in the past, heavier attacks seemed more prevalent at Biggin Hill where again the damage was more serious.
The operations room is hit and once again the telephone system is out of action. The concrete roof of the ops room caves in and the plotting table is smashed to pieces. Two hangars, the officers mess and a number of workshops are destroyed, as well as concrete runways and roads that had received direct hits.
Squadron Leader Peter Townsend of 85 Squadron (Hurricanes) was shot down on this day and he writes in his book:

While the Luftwaffe were attacking more and more strategic targets under the cover of darkness, during daytime it was throwing everything it could into an all out effort to destroy the RAF day-fighter bases defending London. On the 30th and 31st August the day battle reached an unprecedented ferocity. The 31st was our blackest day.........

I was one of the casualties on the 31st. As Dornier bombers swept over Croydon, demolishing hangars and technical buildings, I led my squadron off through the smoke and dust against the attackers. Twenty minutes later, after a sharp cut and thrust combat with a swarm of escorting Messerschmitts, my Hurricane was hit. So was I. Once again my parachute saved me. That night in Croydon General Hospital, the surgeon took a 20mm cannon-shell out of my foot, As I passed out under the anaesthetic I could faintly hear the sirens wailing. The Luftwaffe were closing in on London.

Group Captain Peter Townsend Duel in the Dark Harrap, London 1986
This same incident is mentioned in Dennis Newton's book:
Peter Townsend of 85 Squadron has been shot down. Now he is transported to Hawkhurst Cottage Hospital and then to Croydon General Hospital but on the way, as demanded by some newly-made tradition, his driver conducts him to the Royal Oak Tavern where the locals toast him as a hero and raise their tankards to the damnation of the enemy. Later a short, chubby Australian in his dark blue uniform, is brought in and, despite the obvious discomfort of burns and a wounded thigh, he introduces himself as 'Bill Millington'* and immediately has a pint thrust into his outstretched hand. The airmen are warmed by the hospitality of the people.
Dennis Newton Few of the Few Australian War Memorial 1990 p142
* Pilot Officer W. Millington 79 Squadron RAF

Later that evening, some 160 bombers again attacked the Merseyside cities of Liverpool and Birkenhead, this being the fourth successive night of bombing. There were a number of nuisance raids around the country. Duxford also was attacked, but with no serious damage.

In all, it had been a terrible day for the RAF. Since first light, the airfields of 11 Group had been under relentless attack. But the already tired pilots were hanging out, and as one pilot had said, ".....this is about as bad as it can get, because after today, it just cannot get any worse."

By evening, the sun went down closing another month and Fighter Command was taking a rather grim view of the situation. The last couple of days had taken a toll on pilots, including many experienced commanders and now many squadrons were being led by junior officers and even in some cases by non-commissioned officer pilots. Sgt J.H (Ginger) Lacey of 501 Squadron was one of them. S/L P.W. Townsend of 85 Squadron was another experienced pilot that was a casualty of the battle, his place being taken by P/O G. Allard. Sgt A.(Archie) McDowell had his moment of glory when he took command of 602 Squadron. 151 Squadron that had lost six pilots in three days was now down to twelve pilots to fly ten serviceable aircraft and was withdrawn from 11 Group duties. 43 Squadron lost two of its commanders and by early September a third, S/L C.B. Hull, a South African was killed. From now on, it seemed that the Royal Air Force was to rely heavily on the young and inexperienced pilots of Fighter Command.

In all, the Germans had lost over sixty aircraft that had been shot down, and with most of them being fighters the amount of personnel killed, injured or taken prisoner was a serious blow to the Luftwaffe. The German pilots like the British were becoming tired, and by now disillusionment was setting in. They had been promised by German High Command that the attacks on the British Fighter Command would be a swift action, and that to knock them out in the air as well as on the ground would be nothing but a formality. But the Luftwaffe had found that this was not to be so, they felt that on many occasions they were being misinformed by their own intelligence service because they were constantly underestimating the strength both in pilots and aircraft of Fighter Command. They also felt that the RAFs strength as the war progressed was in the skill of the fighter pilot, the young British pilots were learning tactics fast. But, the number of losses in the Luftwaffe was now causing great concern, not only to the German High Command, but to the pilots themselves. [ Document 41 ]

But even moving the Bf109s to Calais so that they could spend more time escorting the bombers was a good tactical move, it still did not allow them the amount of time over England as they would have liked. Buy the time that they had crossed the coast of England, and including take off, they had used up over a third of their fuel. If they had engaged in a dogfight and with throttles wide open excessive fuel would be used and this was one of the main reasons for having to break away and retreat from combat because they had to allow for enough fuel for the return journey. Many German fighters were shot down trying to get back to their bases because they could not afford to get involved in any more dogfights.

They knew, that in the last couple of days in August 1940, they had pounded the RAF airfields almost to oblivion, and they were being given figures that indicated that they were destroying more and more RAF fighters every day, but each time that they went in on a mission escorting the bombers, there always seemed to be more Hurricanes and Spitfires than ever before.

Many German fighter pilots had by now grown to "hate' the Channel, they started to call it the 'sewer' because any more time spent in combat than ten minutes, then they knew that a forced landing in the Channel was inevitable.

But even if they were tired and morale was at an all time low, they were to prove in the month ahead that they still had enough strength to practically 'set England alight' with constant day and night raids that would, as Goering stated "for once and for all we will now pound them into submission".
September will decide if an invasion of England would at all be possible.

0825hrs: Grove Ferry. Hurricane L1830. 253 Squadron Kenley
S/L H.M. Starr killed. (Shot down by Bf109s. Died beside crashed aircraft in brickworks at Eastry)
0850hrs: Fowlmere. Spitfire R6912. 19 Squadron Duxford
P/O R.A.C. Aeberhardt killed. (Crashed and burnt out on landing after flaps were damaged in combat)
0845hrs: Colchester. Hurricane V7378. 56 Squadron North Weald
F/L P.S. Weaver listed as missing. (Crashed into River Blackwater after being hit by Bf109 gunfire)
0856hrs: Clacton. Hurricane P3175. 257 Squadron Debden
P/O G.H. Maffett killed. (Engaged in combat and shot down by Bf110. Aircraft crashed at Walton-on-Naze)
1330hrs: Thames Estuary. Hurricane P3159. 310 Squadron Duxford
P/O J. Sterbacek listed as missing. (Shot down by Bf109 while attacking a Do215)
1335hrs: Thames Estuary. Hurricane R4215. 601 Squadron Debden
F/O M.D. Doulton listed as missing. (Shot down by Bf109 and crashed into sea)
1600hrs: Kenley. Hurricane V7200. 79 Squadron Biggin Hill
Sgt H.A. Bolton killed. (Crashed making forced landing with battle damage after combat action)
1830hrs: S.E. London. Spitfire X4273. 603 Squadron Hornchurch
F/O R.M. Waterston killed. (Shot down by Bf109 and aircraft broke up before crashing in Woolwhich)
1910hrs: Staplehurst. Spitfire P9457. 72 Squadron Biggin Hill
F/O E.J. Wilcox killed. (Shot down by enemy aircraft over Dungeness)

The above casualty list does really not reflect on the ferocity of the days fighting. In addition to those killed are:

41 Hurricanes and Spitfires either written off of lost at sea.
11 Pilots who baled out of their aircraft suffered from burns.
22 Pilots in total had to bale out of their damaged aircraft.
19 of the aircraft hit by enemy gunfire either returned to base of made a forced landing.


The first few days of the month were a continuation of the July raids by the Luftwaffe. The weather controlled most of the activities but the raids continued on the Channel convoys. Hitler issued his famous Directive No.17 in which he stated that he has decided to wage war against Great Britain. The plan was that an all out air attack against Britain was planned for August 13th, but in the meantime the convoy attacks continued through until August 12th.

The day that "Adler Tag" was implemented, August 13th, got off to a clumsy start for the Luftwaffe. Some of the bomber formations had taken off before the actual order had reached their respective units. Some of these until managed to rendezvous with their fighter escort only to find that after a short period the fighters peeled away and returned to base. A communication breakdown had caused the bomber formations not to receive radio signals because the wrong frequency had been given to them. They continued their attack and a misunderstanding by British radar which advised of "a few bandits approaching" so only one fighter squadron was sent up. The Dorniers made a successful attack on Eastchurch aerodrome. The attacks on Fighter Command airfields was under way, although a large planned attack was supposed to have been made on the afternoon of the 13th, weather conditions did not permit this and Adler Tag was delayed.

Night activity was also increased by the Luftwaffe. Up until now they had been quite content with mine laying operations. Now they were venturing further and with more purpose. Attacks commenced on Merseyside, in the Midlands, and towns along the east coast. By August 15th, formations of bombers from Luftflotte 5 based at Stavanger in Norway attempted an attack on the north east of England with disastrous results, so much so that no further attempts were made to attack from Scandinavia again. But during the afternoon, radar stations along the southern coast as well as Lympne, Hawkinge and Manston airfields. It was clear by August 15th, that the Luftwaffe plans were to make all out attacks on Fighter Command airfields.

By the 18th of the month, the Battle of Britain was on in earnest. Biggin Hill, Kenley and Croydon were almost devastated. Poling radar station was almost destroyed, Coastal Command and naval aerodromes suffered damage, as was many areas in north Kent. Casualty figures started to rise on both sides. Göring thought that he would have inflicted enough damage to Fighter Command that the way would be clear for Hitler's planned invasion, but this was not to be so. They thought that this would be an easy victory, but after the days events, their moral lowered and such a high loss rate the invasion date was set back until September 17th.

Through until the end of the month, the Luftwaffe maintained its pressure on the RAF airfields. Hardly any of the aerodromes escaped severe bombing attacks. Fighter Command was losing pilots as well as aircraft, and Dowding acknowledged that he was losing pilots and aircraft quicker than they could be replaced. The Luftwaffe continued to make blunders that were to cost them more bombers as well as aircrew. They had not learned from earlier mistakes and a number of occasions saw fighter escorts ordered to turn back without notifying the bomber formations. Now Fighter Command were losing not only new and inexperienced pilots, they were losing pilots with many years experience and who held high rank. On a number of occasions junior officers were given command of squadrons because of the loss of squadron commanders.


R.A.F. Fighter Command
Hurricane: 211 destroyed, 44 damaged
Pilots: 85 killed, 1 missing, 68 wounded

Spitfire: 113 destroyed, 40 damaged
Pilots: 41 killed, 3 missing, 38 wounded

Blenheim: 13 destroyed, 10 damaged
Crew: 6 killed, 3 missing, 0 wounded

Defiant: 7 destroyed, 3 damaged
Crew: 7 killed, ? missing, 4 wounded

TOTAL AIRCRAFT: 344 destroyed, 97 damaged
TOTAL PERSONNEL: 139 killed, 7 missing, 110 wounded

The Luftwaffe
Dornier Do 17: 71 destroyed, 30 damaged
Personnel: 70 killed, 129 missing, 57 wounded

Heinkel He 111: 89 destroyed, 15 damaged
Personnel: 113 killed, 204 missing, 35 wounded

Junkers Ju 88: 89 destroyed, 32 damaged
Personnel: 94 killed, 182 missing, 19 wounded

Junkers Ju 87: 57 destroyed, 16 damaged
Personnel: 35 killed, 58 missing, 19 wounded

Messerschmitt Bf 109: 217 destroyed, 45 damaged
Personnel: 54 killed, 91 missing, 39 wounded

Messerschmitt Bf 110: 119 destroyed, 40 damaged
Personnel: 80 killed, 113 missing, 22 wounded

Other: 27 destroyed, 4 damaged
Personnel: 17 killed, 27 missing, 10 wounded

TOTAL AIRCRAFT: 669 destroyed, 182 damaged
TOTAL PERSONNEL: 463 killed, 804 missing, 201 wounded
Peter G. Cooksley The Battle of Britain Ian Allan 1990

Have you checked out all the documents linked from this page
Document 40.   Enter Douglas Bader and 242 squadron
Document 41.   Luftwaffe aircraft and pilot losses for August 1940

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